Australian Rich Listers no longer need a private jet to get around the globe: Etihad Airways is now flying A380s with its incredible three-room suite, known as The Residence, from Sydney to London.
It’s the third plane from the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s A380 fleet to be fitted out with the opulent space and comes to Australia just five months after it was rolled out on the UAE-London leg of the journey. The inaugural flight out of Sydney leaves on Monday night.
The A380 is now on the evening departure of the airline’s twice-daily service between Sydney and Abu Dhabi. The airline’s Airbus A340-600 flights are also being upgraded to Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, increasing capacity by 30% as the Etihad goes into battle with Virgin against a Qantas-Emirates codeshare on the “kangaroo route” to London.
Etihad president and CEO James Hogan says the airline is already running at close to 90% capacity on the route.
“The A380 will provide us with much-needed additional capacity, particularly in business class, where we consistently enjoy high levels of demand for our services,” he said.
At 125 sq feet (11.6m sq), The Residence is the world’s only private three-room cabin on commercial aircraft. It’s in the forward upper deck and features a living room, separate en-suite shower and double bedroom, plus a dedicated Savoy-trained butler. Of course, sir.
It has an 81cm (32”) LCD screen in the living room and another 61cm (24”) television in the bedroom.
For those in the upper deck’s cheaper seats, there are nine first class “apartments” — a private living space with reclining lounge chair and leather ottoman which becomes a 204cm (80.5″) flat bed, and 70 business seats that also become 204cm flatbeds.
Then there’s a lounge between first and business with leather sofas.
Downstairs you’ll find 417 people in economy working their way through 750 hours of on-demand entertainment.
The bad news is, if you’re hoping for an escape from work and the office for a few hours the A380 has full mobile and Wi-Fi access, along with USB and power points at every seat.
If you’re not Frank Lowy or James Packer and have your own plane already, then sit down while we tell you how much The Residence will cost.
Sydney to Abu Dhabi: one way: $AU27,515.22; return $AU55002.04.
Sydney to London: one way: $AU43,113.42; return $AU86,539.64.
Ok, you probably won’t be cashing in frequent flyer points to pay for it, but the good news is The Residence can fit two people. You’re buying the space, so the second person only has to pay the tax. It’s just $AU142 return, Sydney-Abu Dhabi for example, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a friend.
And private room. Double bed. Discreet. Just sayin’.
In December this year, things are going to get really interesting in the battle between Qantas and Virgin and its Gulf partners, when Etihad adds New York (JFK) to its A380 network from Abu Dhabi.
The schedules have yet to be finalised, but the airline promises a connection layover of just a few hours in Abu Dhabi. It might take a few more hours than travelling via LA, but Etihad plans to offer ex-Sydney passengers advanced passenger clearance in the US, so you can skip the immigration queues, not to mention America’s less-than-fabulous domestic airlines on the five-hour cross country haul.
Of course in The Residence, the longer the better.
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